Boot Camp and thoughts of the future…

30 04 2006

BootCamp LogoWell I know this isn’t exactly brand new stuff, but I thought it about time I got around to writing a little about Boot Camp. If you’ve not heard of Boot Camp, basically its an application that assists an Intel-Mac owner in preparing the ground work for a Windows XP SP2 installation.

It covers the basics such as performing a non-destructive dynamic repartition of your hard drive. In English that means it splits your disk into two parts, one bit for OS X and the other for XP. The amount of space for each part is up to you.

Next, Boot Camp burns a CD for you toBootCamp Screenshot use in Windows to get all the Apple hardware working, such as Video drivers, Airport drivers, Bluetooth drivers and even software so you can use the Eject key in XP.

Of course, Apple do not license a copy of Windows themselves; you must bring your own copy with you – and it must be a copy which includes the latest Service Pack 2.

If you have a version of Windows that came with your PC, the chances are it is an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version.

This means that your Microsoft EULA (End-User License Agreement) will prevent you from using this copy on any computer other than the one it came with. Even with the retail versions, there are restrictions on using it on multiple machines, so double check on the Microsoft website before you begin.

My own research on the matter turned up a very useful tutorial on the subject of merging older copies of XP with SP2 (Slipstreaming), on the Paul Thurrott SuperSite for Windows, for those of you with older SP1 and earlier discs.

Now I haven’t actually gone through the process myself, mainly because I really don’t need Windows for anything apart from gaming (I have a lot of games which I don’t want to re-purchase for the Mac) and also because of the problems I have seen reported on various forums and so on. Boot Camp is BETA software of a feature which Apple claim will be supported natively in their next release of OS X, so these sorts of problems are to be expected.

If I had a spare Intel based Mac lying around I may be more tempted, just to have a play with it and I am certainly interested to see how fast Windows XP is on my MacBook Pro, but I use it way too much to risk it being out of action due to a potential fault with the software.

BootCamp is certainly an interesting development as far as the whole “which platform?” debate. My opinion is that it is a good decision. I know a few people who would switch to a Mac in an instant if it were not for its inability to run Windows applications (such as games) natively. These people need a certain software product which has no Mac version or equivalent, end of story.

If Windows can be installed alongside OS X, the prospect of switching becomes much simpler. The tempted user can have his cake and eat it. They can make the transition much more confidently, knowing that should they need it, Windows is there in the background, ready to serve.

Will this be the end of OS X? I should think not. The Apple hardware is only one side of the equation and some may argue is only as good as it is because of the close connection between the hardware and the software, the sort of connection you can only get when the same company creates and supports both.

If anything I expect OS X to get a bit more visibility if more people are likely to the take the risk, knowing that they can always put Windows on if they don’t get on with OS X. Even hardcore Windows users may find themselves booting into OS X to have a look around if they bought a Mac. You never know, they might just like it and decide to stay.

What about if Apple decide to license OS X for all IBM compatible machines? I’m not sure myself on whether this is a good idea or not. It would certainly help with the spread of OS X if it were able to be installed on any PC, rather than just Apple hardware – but one benefit of the hardware maker writing the software is that they can make it work perfectly with said hardware.

Microsoft on the other hand has the laborious task of engineering Windows to work with all the possible combinations of hardware from every manufacturer all over the world. Obviously there are going to be problems with incompatibility every now and then, and there certainly are.

Apple have the disadvantage there, as Microsoft have always had to do this and have the experience and vendor support to do so. Would manufacturers be feel inclined to help Apple as well? It is difficult to say.

To sum up BootCamp is certainly a very good move for Apple and hopefully it will allow more people to experience the other side of the coin, in computer terms.

Link: http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/

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Quick Tip #1: Alternative Menu Choices

26 04 2006

Summary Screenshot

Normally, choosing "Get Info" from the File menu, or a context-menu, will bring up an Info sheet for every file you have selected at the time.

If you want to see a summary of the files you have selected instead, just hold down "Ctrl" when you have the File menu or a context-menu open, and "Get Info" will change to "Get Summary Info".

Ctrl can be used in other places as-well, to alter the available menu options, so try it out to see the effect. Try using ⌥ for even more choices.





Software Review: Sticky Windows

25 04 2006

Sticky Windows is an application which is very clever and also quite useful.Sticky Windows Screenshot Imagine if you work with a lot of windows a lot of the time. If you want to get rid of a few to claim back some precious screen real-estate, but you don't want them gone completely, you could just minimise them to the dock, right?

My only problem (and its one you get used to I guess) is that its not that easy to identify a particular window amongst many if you have a few in the dock. Plus when you open one, if you re-minimise it, the window will go right back to the end, so its not in the same place it was last time.

You could also use the 'Hide' context command, but thats rather too "all or nothing" for my liking – sometimes you have multiple windows from one application open, and perhaps you only want to hide just one or two of them?

The solution is Sticky Windows. Once this little application is up and running, you can drag a window to the edge of the screen, where upon it is transformed into a tab, along with an icon and name, like the one shown in the small screenshot above.

Clicking a tab displays the window instantly, clicking it again hides that window. To remove the tab, just drag it off the edge and it will vanish in a poof of smoke. You can move the tabs along the window edge, and tabs can be created on either side or the bottom of the screen.

I find it much faster than minimising to the dock, if you have a *lot* of windows open, as you control where the tab is, and can go instantly back to find the specific window you need.

The only downside with Sticky Windows is that there is no Universal binary yet, and although it will run on an Intel Mac, when you try to create a tab, the window itself doesn't disappear. Hopefully an updated version will be along soon.

Developer: Donelleschi Software
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or Mac OS X 10.4 – PowerPC only
Download Link: http://www.donelleschi.com/stickywindows/
(943.8KB disk image)





Problem with Mail.app

24 04 2006

Well this is an unusual situation for me – today I had a problem with my Mac which I needed to fix :O

Now I've had an iBook for a year, an eMac before that for about 6 months, and this new MacBook since they released them basically, and in all that time I've never needed to fix the default stuff that comes with a Mac. Now sure I've had a few things that needed sorting out here and there, but that was always with third party software that I added myself, so I don't think that counts as the Mac itself 😛

Admittedly, in all that time I've never tidied up or archived my emails and apparently that's what was causing the problem with Mail.app. From what I could tell by doing a Google search of my symptoms (including emails vanishing and Mail.app lagging or not loading properly) it had something to do with the size of a mailbox.

Somewhere in the region of 1GB and you start to have issues according to the search results I checked – they also said that the newer version of Mail.app didn't have that problem any more, unless you were using the mailbox files from an older version you had upgraded from, which is what I had done!

There were some steps to follow which allowed me to rebuild the mailboxes to gain access so I could archive some older messages, and I also recreated the accounts from scratch so theoretically the problem should not re-occur, so all in all, no damage done, and now I know in the future to be more tidy with my emails.

So the moral of this story I guess is that nothing is infallible, and its always best to keep your files tidy 🙂





Apple Firmware Updates

21 04 2006

Apple have released a firmware update already for the new MacBook Pro, which I am lucky enough to own – since I like to keep myself up to date with things like this, I downloaded it and gave it a whirl.

The installation is very easy, just download the file, run an installer and the Updater itself will appear. You then reboot and wait for the process to complete.

After the firmware update finished, I noticed that the MacBook booted into OS X quicker than it had doing before, which was pretty quick to start with! Maybe it's my imagination, but I have tried rebooting it a few times, and it's definitely faster!

The rest of the new Intel lineup doesn't get left out either, as there are firmware updates available for both the new iMac and the Mac mini.

All the more reason to upgrade is that this firmware update makes it possible for your to install Boot Camp on your Intel Mac, and run Windows XP alongside Mac OS X, natively (more on that topic coming soon).

Apple have also provided a restoration CD which can be used to restore the firmware of any Intel Mac to factory defaults, should you have any problems.

Links:
MacBook Pro Firmware Update 1.0.1
iMac Firmware Update 1.0.1
Mac mini Firmware Update 1.0.1
Firmware Restoration CD 1.0





New Article: Index PHP Script Contents

20 04 2006

I've just completed a new article which describes how Spotlight can be made to index the contents of files it normally wouldn't do, to provide extra functionality.

The article involves editing system files, so be careful and make sure you have backups of any files you modify. If you're unfamiliar with this sort of thing, I'd advise caution.

Since comments can't be made to Articles, this post will serve as a place for any comments/questions relating to the article as well.

Link: https://applemac.wordpress.com/tutorial-index-php-script-contents/





Software Review: Seashore

20 04 2006

When it comes to Graphics, its obvious the Mac is well suited, however there was one aspect of this which I felt it fell short on – basic image editing. In Windows, there is a little utility which is called Paint. This is a very simple, but extremely useful application, for basic image manipulation, at the pixel level.

On the Mac, there is no pre-installed equivalent, unless you have purchased AppleWorks, which has something similar built in.

Now why not just use Photoshop? Or even the GIMP? Well these applications are a little large and also a bit 'overkill' for some of my needs. Plus Photoshop is very expensive. If you are just wanting a lightweight image editor to knock up a few graphics for a website, or to alter the background transparency of a GIF or so on, you probably don't need Photoshop or the GIMP.

The alternative is called Seashore. It is an open-source image editor written in Cocoa and supports multiple layers, alpha channel editing, textures and gradients as well as anti-aliasing:

Seashore Screenshot

Currently the project is in development, but the version I downloaded to try out (version 0.1.8) hasn't crashed once, and is very quick. Even better, it is in Univeral Binary format, so runs natively on Intel Macs. Seashore is built around the familiar GIMP technology and can also use the same native file format.Compared directly to MS Paint, Seashore gives you much much more, but it isn't as big and bulky as Photoshop, and doesn't have the associated price tag either.

In short, it is exactly what I was looking for to fill the gap left by Paint when I switched to the Mac, but it also expands upon the features provided by Paint, so I get more functionality too. Excellent stuff!

Developer: Mark Pazolli
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or later (Universal)
Download Link: http://seashore.sourceforge.net/index.php
(4.0MB disk image)